“It was utterly moronic and shows that, for some people their time in the spotlight has become more important than the good of the Club…We fans have a huge role to play in getting behind the manager and the team for the rest of this season and beyond.”
Following on from Matt’s excellent post yesterday and in preparation for this afternoon’s fifth round FA Cup clash I thought I’d offer us all a bit of comfort. The above quote is the kind of comment we might expect from one of the PA crew, beset as we are by organisations who purport to represent us, vehemently anti Arsenal blogs who claim to be like us and bannerwankers who apparently just need a hug and understanding. But it may surprise you (it may not after all I have no special insight beyond my glass balls, you can find this stuff on the net just as easily as I can) to hear that this is taken not from an Arsenal fan but from the first response of a Blackburn Rovers supporter to news that his club’s resident ‘action group’ are miffed at the appointment of their new manager.
The dickheads we all have to put up with on the internet and for some of you sadly in the stadia where our boys go into battle might genuinely have some cause for alarm if our club had endured the recent history of today’s opponents. I’m not talking about the managerial merry go round, the owners and meddling back-room boys, nor the fact that the club is being sued by a former manager or that horse meat is being served in Lancashire schools. Oh wait, sorry over enthusiastic scanning of the headlines in the Lancashire Telegraph there, disregard the last bit. No the utterly horrifying news greeting Blackburn’s fans this morning is that the club have failed to keep David Bentley from returning to their playing staff. The midfielder who once compared himself to Dennis Bergkamp… Oh Jesus. Give me a moment. Just typing that makes my spleen start to hurt. Ahem. Right here we go. The midfielder who once thought he’d be as good as Dennis Bergkamp…
The young footballer who once set his sights on emulating the inestimably brilliant Dennis Bergkamp, but who ended up not good enough even for Spurs, is returning to Ewood Park on loan for the rest of the season. You see, some people think we have it tough but the guys who George shares a bus with have to digest not only the fact that their kids are eating Shergar but that their home town club has to have that rodent faced little underachiever in their side not just once but for a second go around.
Don’t you feel just ever so slightly better about your life now?
If not, just the simple fact that it’s FA Cup fifth round day should give you a scintilla of pleasure, a slight shiver of spinal sensation at the prospect of a home tie in the country’s premier knock out competition. There’s a whole lot of guff spouted about the devaluing of cups and Arsene not caring enough about this particular tournament but our record in it is second to none. Apart from a team I refuse to acknowledge that is, so second to none as far as I’m concerned. Arsene always looked pretty chuffed at winning the thing and while the Champion’s League and the way qualification for it is organised has altered the balance of power so that in our minds we have to shoe horn in a top four finish to the old hierarchy of European Cup, League Title and FA Cup, there is enough history to keep the pursuit of the old trophy an exciting prospect.
I’m trying desperately not to slip down memory lane into one of my nostalgic diversions. I haven’t mentioned Ronnie Radford, Wrexham, Jim Montgomery, Bobby Stokes, Dave Beasant or Bournemouth in ’84. I’ve been good haven’t I? We have of course been on the receiving end of our fair share of cup upsets and we have to take them on the chin, they are for many old romantics (whatever happened to the new romantics? I suppose they became old in their time) what makes the competition special. I’m not mentioning any of the above mentioned because I’m sure you all have your own FA cup memories both happy and sad and don’t need to read of mine. We can share in the comment section. This flim flam is really only the lure to draw you all here, the light around which us Positive Arsenal moths can gather, the real meat is in the comments as far as I’m concerned.
There are of course FA Cup memories which will bind us all together depending only upon our age. Charlie George lying flat on his back and gazing down at his erection after one of the best ever FA cup final goals and poor Geoff Barnett unfairly carrying the can for letting the loathed Leeds beat us the following year. The sense of utter disbelief when we lost to Ipswich being wiped out by the crazy ending to the 1979 final against United. And the bitter return to Wembley where we somehow contrived to let West Ham score their ping pong goal and beat us the following season. There have been finals which didn’t concern us but nonetheless stick in the mind. I’m certain I only need say Keith Houchen and Gary Mabbutt and many of us will remember diving header and own goal with a warm sense of satisfaction.
As I say I shan’t meander down the roads of my memory for that is a sad habit into which us old men must take care not to fall. I merely wish to set the scene so that you all can relive and share past glories and failures in this venerable competition.
Of course the cup isn’t all about traditions and the past. These days it has a different but no less important attraction. It is a chance to slip out of the suffocating “3 Points A Must” straight jacket of the Premiership and experience life in a different arena. Points are not at stake and a defeat elsewhere for a hated or feared rival means they can be scratched, torn from the wall chart and need not pose us any future threat. Today we are likely to see a different side take the field. There may be old faces returning to the line up from the treatment table as they rehabilitate or youngsters staking a claim in order to alleviate an injury crisis. Fringe or bench players have a chance to shine as their first choice colleagues are rested ahead of supposedly sterner tests. This all gives the FA Cup a feeling of being in a different place, of stepping outside of ourselves for a day and seeing the world through an altered perspective. Of course we want to win, I’m not for a moment suggesting otherwise. I don’t care too much about the league cup but I sure as hell want to win it every year. But there is a tangible relaxation of the weekly grind, of the usual pressures and it is replaced with the allure of cup glory, the promise of a May moment in the Wembley sun. There is the chance of something special at the end of the season, a way of forging a link between these players today and Charlie George’s hard-on and for that reason alone today is a special day.